B.C. investigating 'racist and abhorrent' game at hospital emergency room
VICTORIA -- The British Columbia health ministry is investigating allegations of "racist and completely abhorrent practices" by health-care workers inside a B.C. emergency room.
Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the investigation in a hastily called press conference Friday morning, saying "the allegation is that a game was being played to guess the blood-alcohol level of patients in the ER, in particular Indigenous patients."
Dix later clarified the allegations may apply to more than one emergency room in the province.
"I believe that we will hear, as a result of this, other situations that reflect these same problems [in B.C.]," Dix said.
The health minister declined to identify which hospital or health authority the complaint originated from, but said that information would be made public once the investigation is complete.
"Action is required," Dix said. "Systemic racism hasn’t just existed in our country, it exists in our country."
The province has hired outside investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead the investigation.
Turpel-Lafond previously served as B.C.’s representative for children and youth.
Dix said he learned of the game, which was allegedly occurring "in advance or during [patient] treatment," from deputy health Minister Stephen Brown after a complaint from the community on Thursday night.
Dix called the allegations "so significantly serious that they require an investigation by someone of Ms. Turpel-Lafond's authority."
In a statement to CTV News, Turpel-Lafond confirmed her investigative role, saying, "I take this very seriously and will conduct an independent and urgent review of the matter."
The Métis Nation of British Columbia and the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres released a joint statement following the minister's announcement, saying the latest allegation is one of "thousands of cases of racism in health care, resulting in the harm of Indigenous patients."
"First Nations, Métis and Inuit patients seeking emergency medical services in British Columbia are often assumed to be intoxicated and denied medical assessments, contributing to worsening health conditions resulting in unnecessary harm or death," the statement said.
The two groups are calling on the provincial health ministry to launch a public inquiry into Indigenous-specific racism in health care, particularly in emergency rooms and hospitals, and ensure all front-line health workers take mandatory Indigenous sensitivity training.
Premier John Horgan released a statement Friday addressing the issue of racism in health care, saying he is "outraged by reports of ugly, anti-Indigenous, racist behaviour at multiple health-care facilities in B.C."
"This behaviour degrades the standards and provisions of health care in our province. It cannot stand. There is no excuse. There is no explaining this away," the premier said.
"This will not be swept aside," Horgan added. "We will not look the other way when racism is exposed. We will get a full account and changes will be made."